Don’t Fight Your customers on the Way Out – Part 1


Round 1 – Ready to Fight?

Calling to cancel your membership or return a product? Put your boxing gloves on, it’s time to fight. It can be stressful these days when calling an 800-number to end your subscription or to return a product. As a call center savvy consumer, I know the representative/retention specialist on the other end of the phone is about to do his or her best to convince me to keep the service or product. Here comes the script, here come the offers, and that typical bad question, “Why do you want to cancel your service?” Ultimately, it is my decision, and yet, I am about to face someone over the phone who will attempt to talk me out of it.

Having built and trained world-class call centers over the years, and as customers, Judy and I have both encountered countless examples of how companies actually fight their customers as they are trying to close or cancel an account or return a product. Far too often scripts are written that unintentionally make our customer feel ‘wrong and stupid’, putting them on the defensive and more eager than ever to cancel. It is a challenging task to train your retention representatives to think in a new way, one that makes customers ‘right and smart.’

When did it become wrong for customers to change their minds? When did it become a fight with the consumer when they simply want to say, “No thanks”? Our representatives are really between a rock and a hard place. On the surface, it appears that there are two conflicting goals, two masters to serve; retain as many customers (and money) as possible, while helping customers cancel their account. Huh? How do I do both? Which one is more important?

Our answer is simple, but not always easy to understand or implement. We first need to recognize that this phone call, this interaction is most likely the last time that particular customer will talk to your organization. The choice is ours, do we make the customer’s last experience with our company standout as a struggle or do we help them along their way? What we need to do is make the customer feel right about calling in, right to choose our company in the first place, and, if we can’t find what caused their decision to cancel, say goodbye with a great spirit of caring.

It’s All About The Money….or is it?

Retention programs are often launched with a flawed goal at the center of their charter and the wrong plan for retaining customers. The ‘show me the money’ approach, or one that thinks we can merely throw money at the customer, does not work. The Beatles said it best, “Money can’t buy me love,” and this is true in the call center as well. Call center leaders often wonder why their retention programs are not hitting their ‘save’ goals or why they are not protecting enough revenue for the company. Have we ever considered that maybe the reason is something that money could not fix?

Several years ago, Judy trained a large credit card company in retention. Customers were calling in large numbers to cancel their cards and the retention plan had representatives immediately offering $20 incentives and when that didn’t work they offered $50 or NO annual fee. Management was dumfounded when customers continued to say, “No thanks.” Company executives could not understand the problem and spent countless hours trying to understand why customers were refusing their offer. What was wrong?

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